Part 2: Quilting for Domestic Machine Artists…Rulers (cont.) and Markers

 

This is the second in my unknown number of parts series of quilting for domestic machine artists.  Several interesting points stood out to me from comments both here and on Facebook following my last blog-post on ruler work for domestic machine artists.  There are a lot of rulers, sometimes called templates, out there for this type of quilting; more keep being introduced; and they are relatively expensive.  There is no way I can test them all, or even all the brands (but if you’d like to contribute to this blog using the PayPal donation button on the lower right, I will happily thank you and apply it to rulers/templates and provide further testing results).

So I suggest if you are just starting out that you buy only a few basic rulers–a good well-marked straight ruler, and a few shapes and curves, or one of those sets.  Then learn to use them, and add them only as you need them for specific projects, which will help focus your ruler collection around the way you work.  In a while, you might want to take an inventory of what you have and see where there are gaps you might need.   I note that this series of blogs have forced me to do such an inventory and I have found some places I need some rulers.  Please pay close attention to the quality and the marking.  These things make a huge difference in your quilting results.

Another thing I hope you will do as you start using rulers is to be patient with yourself and just keep on practicing until you feel comfortable and have reasonably good results.  I hated it when I started using rulers, but I totally love ruler work now.  It’s amazing how easy it feels to me now when I found it really hard at first.  I still am not that great at it, but I do so enjoy it that I think I might get there.

I still haven’t had a chance to borrow my daughter-in-law’s Gadget Girls rulers, but I will and tell you about them when I do.

I also find that I need to mark lines to guide my ruler work.  This might be grids, or a simple line.  It is not full marking of the planned design usually.

A Word About Marking

Everyone has their own marking methods they prefer, and I suspect that is the case with most of you.  I have already mentioned some of this in past blogs, but it is worth revisiting.  I have several products I particularly like.  The choice for markers depends on whether I am going to wet block or wash my quilt after it is complete, what are the fabric weave  and content, and the value (is it light or dark).

  • My favorite marker is Crayola washable markers…the finest point available.  This marker washes out of everything I have tested so far, even if I happen to iron over it.  I only had one time I had to wash it twice, and that was using a brown marker on white tightly woven cotton.  It came out though.  This marker is not very expensive, it stays in place as long as it doesn’t get wet and you can easily see it (I sometimes have a hard time seeing the oft-recommended blue markers).  But it has to be washed out with water.
  • If I’m working on one of my art quilts that have a lot of silk, specialty threads, and other painting on it, I probably will not do more than a spritz of water and steam to block such a quilt.  But regardless the marks have to come off one way or another.
    • Mostly the different chalk markers, mechanical chalk pencils, and so on, tend to work fine, but I do avoid yellow because I had a terrible time getting that out one time, and I’ve seen others say the same thing.  Mostly I remove these with a microfiber cleaning cloth…comes right off.
    • Chalk goes away much too easily for most silks and satin weaves.  I have spent much of my quilting career hunting for a good marker that stays in place on such fabrics while I need it and comes off without washing.  I think I have tried all of the main types and brands on the market.  The ones I found that works the best are the mechanical pencils by either Fons and Porter or Sewline.  These, however, will also often go away well before I’m finished quilting satin weaves, such as Radiance cotton/silk or dupioni silk.
    • I have found one method that works for satin weaves, but is sometimes tedious to remove.  I trace the design on Golden Threads paper and stick it to the fabric with temporary adhesive dots trying to miss most of the stitching lines with the adhesive. Remove by tearing it off and catching resistant places with tweezers.  I have even been known to use this method on very close stitching.  Of course, it takes forever to remove and you shouldn’t use an open toe foot for this, because it gets caught under the paper.  Here is an example…shadows under the steps on my quilt Perspective in Threads.

Look at the shadow under the steps. THat was many lines of thread marked with the paper method.

Look at the shadow under the steps. That was many lines of close stitching marked with the paper method.  I printed the design on the golden threads paper and stuck it on.  It took me hours to remove, but it worked.  I stitched this whole quilt back in 2012.  This was long before I started ruler work.  I used straight stitch and decorative stitches on my Bernina 200E machine (I no longer have this) and marked with Crayola markers, except for the part under the steps.  Today, I would just mark the general areas that need the close stitching and do close together ruler work, so I wouldn’t have any paper to remove.  Here’s a picture of the marking.

Crayola washable marks on the top before stitching.

Crayola washable marks on the top before stitching.

fabric-tracing

Marking in progress for “Dad’s House Plan” also before the days of at-machine ruler work and done with Crayola markers.  As you can see from both of these examples, rulers would have been helpful when I quilted it.

  • It also helps a lot to have some kind of very temporary marker around once you start quilting.  I use either one of those that are air erasable or one of those fatter chalk pencils.  These are handy for as-you-go additional marks, corrections, notes to yourself, and idea changes after sandwiching to the ones you make before you sandwich your quilt.

Sew happy everyone! Teach someone to sew or quilt…your brother, your child, your neighbor…  Cheers.

Part 1: Quilting for Domestic Machine Artists…Rulers

I have decided to do a multi-part (not sure how many parts) series on quilting on domestic machines for artists.  I know there are a lot of you out there who really don’t consider yourselves artists, but who really are.  You pick colors, you make shapes, you put them together to make a pleasing wall quilt, snuggle quilt, bag, vest or some such, and come up with something wonderful and then you have to quilt it on your sit down domestic machine or sit down longarm.  So, that is who I mean when I say “domestic machine artists.”

There are many considerations, tools, threads, and designs to help, but just how to put them together becomes almost overwhelming sometimes.  I know this because I’ve been there.  Indeed, almost every quilt I make is like that.  And I have many quilts in my head that I want to make that may be even more of a puzzle when it comes to the quilting.  This little series may not be real organized, but I want to share what I have learned and you can take it away and improve on it, or reject it, or whatever you wish to do with it.  LOL

Free Motion Ruler Work on a Sitdown Machine

A little over a year ago I started experimenting with domestic ruler work, and since then have watched it take off.  I began with a Westalee Ruler foot on my Bernina 830, and later got the #96 foot, which no dealer recommends because you have to ALWAYS remember not to start it with the foot up.  It has to be down or you could knock your machine out of timing.  They are supposed to come out with their #72 foot that will be the recommended foot for use with your regular Berninas by the end of the year.

I have since solved the problem of using my #96 foot the expensive way by purchasing a Bernina Q20 longarm and set it up as a sit down in my studio.  It uses all my free motion feet I got for my 830 and is wonderful, by the way, but the essentials of using rulers are about the same.  The chief difference I found is that the rulers have to be on the small side, and the field of vision is not as large on the smaller harp domestic.  Also, the stitch regulators are doubled and built in and are much more powerful in the Q20 and so you can quilt a lot faster than on a Bernina with the BSR attachment.  Nevertheless, most of what I have to say is the same for sit down machines of all sorts.

I found several essentials are imperative to make free motion ruler work go well:

  1.  The table needs to be flush with your machine base, however you accomplish this, and your feed dogs need to be down.
  2. The surface under the needle needs to be slick.  For my Bernina 830 I use a silicone mat taped down with blue painter’s tape.  Yes, I know it’s supposed to stick, and I believed it until I sewed the mat onto the back of one of my quilts.  LOL   And for my Q20 I spray the table with silicone spray I got from Nancy’s Notions after covering the small needle and bobbin space under the needle with blue painter’s tape and the machine itself with cloth before spraying to make sure no spray enters the workings of the machine.  Then remove it after spraying and let dry.  Wipe with a paper towel before starting quilting….very effective.
  3. You need to have some kind of item to help the rulers stay put.  I use either the little sticky dots of sand paper on the bottom of the ruler, or double tape on small rectangles of that spongy shelf liner.  Both work well.  I have seen other methods, but these are the ones I like.
  4. A ruler foot is important:  I began with the Westalee ruler foot, which I found to be pretty good and it works with generic feet attachments.  But a lot of machines have ruler feet now and more are getting them.
  5. Your hands need something to help them grab and control the quilt and the rulers at the same time.  I use gloves.  Sometimes I use one glove on the right hand and nothing on the left, depending on how I feel.  I found I don’t need this nearly as much with my Q20 as I do with my 830, and have even quilted with no gloves when using very small rulers.  I saw Teri Lucas using the bats in her video from some time ago.
  6. You need the right rulers.  If you are using a regular machine harp space, you need smaller rulers.  It’s too bad because there are some wonderful larger rulers out there.  But you can do some magnificent quilting with the smaller ones too.  When buying rulers, I have found the better marked they are the more useful they are.  It isn’t just the outside shape, but how you can line it up with your quilt top and design.  So the marks are very important.
  7. You need a plansometimes you need to mark lines to line up your rulers for effective quilting.  I use either Crayola Washable Markers, if I’m going to wash the quilt, or mechanical pencil style markers if not and it’s cotton, or Golden Threads paper if it is on something slick, like satin (because other markings won’t stay on).

I have found to my surprise that I have a bunch of quilting rulers.  I don’t know HOW that happened.  LOL   I would like more.  Anyway, I really really like Lisa Calle’s rulers.  They seem just right for my kind of ruler work–well marked, easy to handle.  I also have one ruler from Gina Perkes, and one Westalee.  I am going to borrow my daughter-in-law’s collection of mostly Gadget Girl rulers and review those sometime later–perhaps I’ll be able to pick those up next weekend.  Anyway, here are the rulers I have found most effective for art quilting at my sitdown machines so far:

Lots of rulers.

Lots of rulers.

Well, in fact the very first quilt I made at Fritz (my Bernina Q20) was my Spiral Galaxy Number 3, and it won a ribbon at PA National Quilt Extravaganza (PNQE) in September for Best Interpretation of Theme.  I used those longer curved rulers at the back of the picture above and the little ones on the right for making the initial stitching of the arms of the spiral.  You can’t probably see it in the picture, it’s black 100 weight silk thread, but it guided the rest of the quilt.  The smaller curves were needed in the center of the spiral, changing four or five times to a larger curve progressing to the longest curve by the end of each arm.

Spiral Galaxy No. 3

Spiral Galaxy No. 3

So recently I have been working on the quilt my oldest son Ken designed for me that has Celtic borders.  The ruler work is not for the quilting yet, but rather to make the border pieces.  I will quilt along the same lines with invisible thread once they are pieced into the top and sandwiched.  So here is the design marked on the paper and stuck onto the satin ready to stitch:

celtic-start

And here is the final piece with the rulers in front that I used for all those varied twists, turns, and I also used a straight ruler which I forgot to put into the picture.  Because the design was a reproduction of an eleventh century artist’s illuminated manuscript border all the turns and angles were slightly different from the one before it.  So I had to keep fitting the rulers into the design and stitching a little ways and changing to another ruler.  The entire design was stitched with rulers, the paper removed (yes, that was a project), and painted.  I am hoping the quilting will make it clearer where the design crosses over and under itself.

celtic-with-rulers

And just to bring this together, below is one of my early practice pieces in which I used a lot of the small rulers for small circular or half circle designs.  When you look at this, remember it was done on the very first day of stitching on my Q20 and I missed a lot.  In fact, it’s not very good:

some of this is ruler work

some of this is ruler work

 

I have set up a couple of practice sandwiches to play around with the rulers and will be showing some of my results of that in a later part of this series, along with a discussion of threads, needles, markers, and free motion embroidery.  The plan is to also show some fill work.  I am doing all of this partly for my blog readers, but also in preparation for a workshop I will be doing at G Street Fabrics in Rockville in June 2017.

Ruler Help for Sitdown Straight Stitching

I will tell you that sometimes I get better results for some of my straight stitching using my Bernina 830 than I do on my Q20.  This is not always the case, but it is something that you may want to keep in the back of your mind if you are getting frustrated on a project where straight line work is important.  You can use any of your machines…you don’t have to be stuck to just one if you have several.  Use the one that gets the best result.  Here is an example:

stitched on my 830 with golden threads paper and the straight stitch with #37D foot.

stitched on my 830 with golden threads paper and the straight stitch with #37D foot.

I found this just simply went better with just plain markings and a straight stitch…slow but sure…using golden threads paper stuck on.  Then, like the bigger border swirly design, I removed the paper (even more of a task) and painted it. I have two more pieces before I’m finished.

Sometimes, I also use a ruler to help me get things straight when quilting on my Bernina 830.  I did this long before I had Fritz, and would probably use a straight ruler at Fritz for this if I were to do such a project again.  In the end, I actually cut this all off and bound it closer to the central design, but it works pretty well for some applications.

Straight quilting

Sew happy everyone!  Let me know if you have some rulers that you particularly like. Send me pictures of your ruler work, along with the information about the ruler you used, and I’ll probably publish them in future blogs.  Send to BettyJo@bjfabricartist.com

 

What If You Can’t Go to Houston?…..Then…

Background stippling the central theme

This is kind of a repeat subject, but I thought it might be fun for you to consider if you can’t go to Houston.  Develop and take your own personal quilting retreat with a certain amount of commitment while other quilting friends are off carousing in Houston.

Shortly after I bought Fritz (my Bernina Q20 sitdown longarm), I took a week and had my own private quilting retreat that inspired me, gave me time to practice quilting on my new machine, and to take some really fun online classes.  I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel I should be doing something else when I’m spending time on these activities.  So setting aside a period of time and designating it as “a retreat” to myself and family gave me a lot of fun without that nagging thought that maybe I should be working on something else or cleaning or some such.  It actually felt like I was at a retreat and it helped me learn a lot and just have some fun.  The cost was limited to the purchase of the online classes and the supplies for them, and I bought them on sale and pulled most of the supplies from my own stash.  The cost of going Houston is quite a significant amount more unless you live there, and you can review the classes whenever you want to.

I approached this just as I would have preparing for any retreat:  I put together a stack of small quilt sandwiches, some of which I marked with grids and lines, and some had no marking for my practice.  I bought several online classes and made sure I had all the supplies for them, and I did do a little cleaning prep of my studio beforehand.  These are some classes I recommend from iquilt.

  • Divide, Design, and Fill for Beautiful Quilting:  Lisa H. Calle
  • Machine Quilting on the Grid:  Gina Perkes
  • English Paper Piecing by Machine:  Karen K. Stone
  • Step by Step Quilted Landscapes:  Kathy McNeil
  • Three Embellished Fabric Bags:  Rami Kim

I also recommend these classes from Craftsy.

  • The Perfect Finish:  How to Bind a Quilt:  Susan Cleveland
  • The Machine Embroidery Inspired Quilt:  Susan Stewart
  • Scrap Quilting:  Pepper Cory

In addition, if you are a member of The Quilt Show, (and if you aren’t, why not?)  it’s a nice time to review or see some of the shows and the little Bernina videos (most techniques applicable to other than Bernina machines).

  • Select TQS shows, which I played while I was quilting (I have a small TV in Studio Fritz).  I think this moved my quilting forward.

The first thing I did was just play the classes through while I was practicing my quilting on Fritz.  Then I watched a couple of them with care and did some form of the projects.   I think it would be fun to have a friend join me for a similar private retreat sometime here in my studio.  Any volunteers?

Sew happy everyone!  I highly recommend you carry out your own personal quilting or sewing retreat and let me know how it goes for you and what classes you took.

 

Pondering the Next Projects

My new Bernina Q20 named Fritz.

At this point in my life, I am really amazed to find myself blessed with my two-and-a-partial room studio set up with all my machines in great working order; the fabric, the thread, the paints, the inks, the sequins, crystals, and beads; and the collection of wonderful and interesting sewing tools and notions from decades of sewing.  I even have hoops, needles, and thimbles for hand quilting.  These things have been collected over half a century and include some of inherited items from my mother and mother-in-law.

Currently, I am making the hardest quilt I have ever undertaken…the one my son Ken designed for me and gave me the supplies to make it (see my blog about this here).  I will not be showing that one here until after it is complete, and probably after it has debuted in a show. I am hoping to finish this quilt by the end of November.  As I work through this quilt I am pondering what directions I should take now that I have what is needed to make most anything I can think of.

I do have a 2017 list of quilts concepts (not in any kind of working order):

Ancient Manuscripts:  Ken’s (underway) Designed by Ken Tatum, and gifted design, threads, and fabrics for this magnificent design.
Marvin Memory quilt:  Like a Tree Psalm 1 (Tree by river with words) with fabulous landscape work, the Psalm somehow incorporated in the quilting
Deep Space 4 TBD
Dark Forest in 3D This is kind of a three dimensional
Waiting…3 At the airport
Volcanic Scene with Dragon and Phoenix Mostly in reds, oranges, browns, and golds
Heirloom Quilt in memory of Mom Using Mom’s unfinished needlework and sepia pictures with beads, crystals. lace, decorative stitching…crazy quilt blocks alternating with sepia pics.  This may not be a show quilt…I’ll decide during or after making it.
Deep Space 5 TBD
Ancient Manuscripts 4 TBD
Wool applique and embellishment TBD
Whole Cloth Unusual whole cloth tbd…I have several ideas.
Jacob’s Ladder Jacob’s Ladder pictorial using Jacob’s Ladder traditional blocks for the ladder itself…kind of goes along with Waiting… and Drawing Nigh.
In Full Bloom Flower Applique/Embroidery laden quilt, from Beth’s photographs/Joint with Beth
Swarkovski crystal music/Houston special Jazz 1920s, city with musical notes coming from lit windows with silhouettes, and rising and exploding into fireworks..try to make it almost pulsing with the music beat.

Sew I’m thinking about all of this while making Ken’s quilt.  I keep coming up with new ideas.  I am also considering what to do with these quilts considering everything that is going on in the quilting world.  While they will all be made at show quilt level, I am not sure they will all end up at shows.

Additionally, I am also slowly working on several books and planning to provide some videos and tutorials here.

Sew happy everyone!  What are you working on now or planning?